So this is what happened:
It is nearly 30 years ago. The mother of my then-girlfriend died. Her mom was buried on my girlfriend’s 18th birthday.
Understandably she was devastated. My GF, who was living away at college at the time, faced the daunting challenge of emptying her mom’s apartment. (Her parents had divorced so it was just my GF and her mom in this apartment in Staten Island.)
The lease was coming due and she was not emotionally up to the challenge of clearing out — in a hurry — remnants of her family’s life. So I volunteered to do it.
Did I mention that this was a column about friends? About true friends? About friends who come to you in times of need that you didn’t even realize you were in?
It’s a Friday night, Pedro and I are at McDonald’s after working together as bank tellers in the Bronx, and I’m preparing to head out to Staten Island to single-handedly empty out this apartment. Upon hearing my story, and without a moment’s hesitation, Pedro says: “I’ll help you.”
Three words that translated into a long weekend of sweaty hard work and a hilarious escapade that will be the subject of a future blog entry.
Three words that I vividly recall to this day and for which I remain grateful.
Three words that when I retell this story even today, give me a catch in my throat because of what they meant to me.
Male friends are a rare breed. We hide our emotions in jokes, we don’t talk openly about our feelings and we razz each other mercilessly. And yet somehow the closest of male friends can have an undeniable bond that requires few words.
There was a span of time that distance and life put me out of touch with my closest friends for like, oh, 10 years or so. And when we reunited it was like time stood still. No awkwardness. Picked up right where we left off.
And it was not long after my friends and I reunited that my fiancee died. And much like Pedro’s three words — “I’ll help you” — I can remember in instant replay my childhood chums walking (late, naturally!) into the funeral home for my fiancee’s wake.
I swear to God, it was like the slow motion scene from “Armageddon” when the hero astronauts are walking to the spacecraft.
The scene — both in the movie and in the funeral home — was uplifting and reassuring.
So in an effort to lift the shroud of stoicism that so often colors our male friendships and to encourage other men to do the same, let me offer three other words for my friends:
I love you.